'Eric  Hosmer' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Eric Hosmer was one of the most disappointing players in fantasy baseball in 2012. A top-10 first base option according to pretty much everyone in March, he was a miserable failure given his draft day cost. However, as I noted in my First Base Positional Review, is it possible that Hosmer really wasn't as bad as you thought and still worth targeting in 2013?

Here's what most people see and it causes them to quiver in fear with Hosmer.

2011: .293/.334/.465 2012: .232/.304/.359

Admittedly, if that was all the data we had to review how could anyone have anything positive to say about Hosmer? So let's dig into that slash line and and see if we can draw out anything positive.

Hosmer's average fell .061 points. Does a look at the usual suspects explain why that happened?

He must have struck out more, right? Well he did, but his K-rate only went up a percentage point to 15.9, so that certainly doesn't remotely address the average dip. Moreover, his walk rate increased from 6.0 percent to 9.4 percent, and that obviously doesn't address the fall.

Hosmer's ability to hit line drives remained unchanged. His line drive rate was 18.5 percent after an 18.7 percent rookie mark.

Generally speaking, ground balls turn into hits more frequently than fly balls. Given that, a four percent increase in Hosmer's GB-rate also doesn't explain why his batting average fell.

What about his BABIP you ask? An astute question my padawan learner (can you believe Disney bought LucasFilm?). After a solid .314 mark as a rookie, that number caved to .255 in year two for Hosmer. Given the line drive and ground ball information I noted, there is little that can explain the drastic BABIP drop. Some might say the exaggerated shift that team's put on Hosmer had an effect, and they are correct it did have an effect, but it certainly doesn't explain the substantial fall, at least not in total. So what I'm saying here is that there is every reason to believe the batting average will rebound in 2013.

Lost among the struggles is the fact that he improved his steal total to 16, the most among AL first baseman, and that was with his OBP falling .030 points (remember that). Hosmer also scored only one fewer run, despite the OBP dip, which would lead you to think some improvement there is almost a lock in the coming season. While his homer dip looks substantial, from 14 to 19, he still had a HR/F rate of nearly the same as his rookie season at 11.3 (versus 13.5). The real issue in terms of the power production is that Hosmer beat way too many balls into the ground leading to a far too high 1.92 GB/FB. He's simply not going to be a 20 home run hitter with a 28 percent fly ball rate, so he will need to lift the ball more to reach his expected power heights.

Here's what I know with Hosmer.

He's going to cost a lot less this season than he did last year, and that represents a strong buy low opportunity.

Second, he is likely to run as much as any first sacker, and 15-20 steals from that position is massive.

Third, his batting average has to improve, just has to. He may not get it back into the .290's, but if he doesn't hit at least .275 I would be surprised.

Fourth, I'm concerned about his ability to sock 25 homer next season, but if his other numbers rebound, and he pushes 15-20 steals, his less than ideal power won't hold him back that much in terms of his overall fantasy value.

In re-draft mixed leagues, Hosmer is a strong option as a corner infielder. In keeper leagues, now is the time you want to strike on the uber-talented player who simply put just had a bad season. The talent is still elite and the production is almost certain to improve starting in 2013.

 

By Ray Flowers




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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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